1. “Congratulations.” – Even though a PAL mom might want to be discrete and not share the news about this pregnancy in fear that something might happen again, we still are secretly or not so secretly excited inside. So if you are a fortunate one to find out a mom is pregnant again after loss, do a little celebrating with her by wishing her well.
2. “You look great!” – During a regular pregnancy it’s tough to feel comfortable with how you look. Now imagine throwing constant worry and stress on top of what is a tense time in one’s life and you got a weary mama. So when you see a mama you know has experienced a loss and her feet are swelling and her belly is bulging, send a little love her way by reminding her that she is glowing and radiating beauty and strength. Even if she doesn’t believe it, she needs to hear it.
3. “How can I support you?” – Mamas pregnant again need as much support as they can get! Pregnancy is an emotionally challenging time and after experiencing a previous loss it’s like 100 times more difficult. So be supportive. Like, real I will be there if you need me support. If she can’t think of a way that she needs you right now then offer her up some ideas. Maybe you could watch her kids while she gets a massage or goes to a support group, You could invite her out for a light lunch and listen to her concerns or maybe you can distract her from all things pregnant by bringing over a funny movie. Whatever support you are good at giving, now is the time to help.
4. “It must be very difficult to be pregnant again after your loss.” – Somehow acknowledge that this is a subsequent pregnancy for her and her partner. Subsequent meaning they have already had another pregnancy or child that they are missing. Some loss occurred that makes this pregnancy twice as hard as the previous ones. Acknowledge this. Don’t act like everything is ‘normal’ with this pregnancy as if nothing happened. Acknowledge the previous loss because I guarantee you that she hasn’t forgot about it and it might be on the forefront of her mind anyways and help to talk about it.
5. “I’m here for you, even if you just want me to listen.” – Saying this is a beautiful invitation on your part offering her a safe place to share her worries, challenges, and even joy. Allowing her to just be her is a great gift and sometimes that only comes by being present with another person as they verbally process their struggles. You are a great friend if you are willing to give this gift.
6. “You must have so many emotions. I can’t say I understand but I want you to know I am thinking of you.” – As a PAL mom myself I loved when people said they were thinking of me. It made me feel like I was not alone in this process and that people took the time to actually reach out and basically say, “Hey, this must be hard and I am aware that it must suck for you. I get that there isn’t much I can offer to make it better but I can say that you are on my mind.” For some reason, that was helpful for me.
7. “It’s okay to be scared.” – Would you be scared if you were in her situation? Probably, so it’s a normal feeling to have right now, correct? Then tell her that it makes sense that she is feeling scared, worried, anxious, confused, happy, sad, or whatever emotion is there. Don’t tell her how to feel, but if she comes to you and says, “I’m scared.” Help normalize that for her by saying, “I would be scared too.” Basically saying, “You are NORMAL!” Because often times PAL moms don’t feel emotionally normal even though it’s typical to having confusing and conflicting emotions during this time.
8. “Will this baby be a little brother or little sister to __(insert deceased child’s name here)___?” – This is perfect! Saying this is acknowledging that I had another child that died and you still realize that even though I am pregnant again that child is part of me just as much as this one I’m growing. It’s such a validating feeling when others remember our babies that have died. For a split second you help us be their mom out in the open. You are also making us feel special by acknowledging that this baby has an older sibling and that they too are connected in this life even if they aren’t physically present.
9. “_____” Sometimes it’s best just to be present, silent, and a witness to someone’s grief. Silence can be a great gift if you execute it correctly. Sitting with someone quietly and holding space for their tears in a non-judging way is a powerful way to connect to the PAL mom.
10. “Can I give you a hug?” – Now I don’t want you to go around hugging every PAL mom out there or touching our bellies all the time. There is enough of that already during pregnancy, but physical touch has a healing power in places where words fail us. Sometimes we just need someone to give us a hug with no words to let us know we are supported.
11. “How are you doing, really?” – People often ask, “How are you doing?” as a common phrase when interacting with the world during everyday life. But when you add in ‘really’ you are opening the door for the PAL mom to be authentic and truthful in her answer. You are basically acknowledging that if things are hard you are willing to provide a safe place for those difficult emotions to be heard.
12. “I miss the baby that died too.” – I loved it when people acknowledged my daughter that died when I was pregnant with my subsequent child. It felt like the other person was honoring both of my children by saying these words and it was important to me to know that my daughter’s short life touched others. Every day of my life I will miss my daughter that died, so you saying you miss her too while I’m pregnant again makes me realize she hasn’t been forgotten just because another baby is on its way into our world.
What do you want people to say to you during your pregnancy after a loss? Please feel free to add to the list.
To read Lindsey Henke’s companion piece to this article, see 11 Things NOT to Say to the Mama Expecting Again After a Loss.